The “Non-Traditional” Applicant is the New Traditional!
Although most physicians in your parents’ generation went straight to medical school from college, it is now very common for people to work for 1-2 years between college and medical school. In fact, medical schools look favorably on candidates who are more mature and bring some “working world” experience with them when they begin their medical studies. A recent survey by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) reports that in 2011 50% of entering medical school students had a "gap period' of at least one year between graduating from undergraduate college and starting medical school. (Source: 2013 Medical School Admissions Requirements Getting Started, published by the Association of American Medical Colleges, page 15)
In fact, on the Aspiring Docs section of its web site, the AAMC has published some suggestions on how to make productive use of the "gap period"- How Do I... Make the Most of my Gap Year?. Quoting from the AAMC web site: "A “gap year” is the period of time between the end of your undergraduate education and the start of medical school. In fact, a gap year might be a year or more depending on each person’s particular circumstances. Frequently, the reasons for a gap year center on an applicant’s need for more time to participate in medically-related volunteer and lab experiences, strengthen GPA or MCAT scores, pay down debt, work on becoming a stronger candidate, or simply take a break."
The American Dental Education Association (ADEA) also has some advice for predental students regarding "gap year." In the Pathways section of the ADEA GoDENTAL web site for predental students there is a blog entry - The Gap Year Done Right with suggestions about when to consider taking a gap year and some advice about what to do during that year.
For the last several years, approximately 80% of Bryn Mawr applicants graduated from college and then worked for a year or more prior to enrolling in medical, dental or veterinary school. During the "glide year(s)" many alumnae have worked as clinical research assistants at hospitals and clinics or laboratory research assistants in biomedical research institutes and universities. Some alumnae have served with the Peace Corps, Teach for America, or AmeriCorps. The Career and Professional Development (CPD) Office works with students and alumnae who are looking for internship and job opportunities in the health professions field. Be sure to work closely with the CPD as you explore glide year job opportunities.
To read some interesting stories Bryn Mawr alumnae who worked after graduation before attending medical school, please check out this article from the Alumnae Bulletin "Finding Directions to Health Care Work."
The Health Professions Advising Office will provide support and assistance to all alumnae, regardless of the number of years since graduation. The prehealth advisor is happy to meet with alumnae in person, over the phone or via Skype, and to answer questions over email. For alumnae just getting started in the medical school application process, a good first step is to review the information on this web site and then to schedule an initial advising appointment with the prehealth advisor.
To gain additional clinical, research or volunteer experience.
Many Bryn Mawr alumnae strongly desire to gain additional experience to help decide between a clinical or research career or just to learn more about the medical profession before committing to medical school.
To present a fuller application to medical school admissions committees
If a student wants to matriculate in medical school in the fall following graduation from Bryn Mawr, the student submits the medical school application the summer following junior year. Medical schools therefore will only be reviewing the student's work through the end of junior year when selecting applicants for interviews. This means that any graduation honors (cum laude, honors in major, etc) will not be reviewed until the end of the selection process the following May, and these achievements will have no impact on the review process for interviews by the admissions committee . In addition, many students take key upper level science courses such as biochemistry during the senior year; their performance in those classes might be considered in January, but by that time the majority of interview invitations have been extended. Waiting to apply after graduation, in most cases, enables the premedical student to present a stronger and more complete academic portfolio to the medical schools.
Because the required science courses are two semester sequences, it is often difficult for a student to go abroad and complete the premedical courses by the end of the junior year unless she takes a premedical course during the summer. It is not recommended that students take premedical courses in the summer because medical schools prefer that students take premedical sciences at their home institutions during the academic year. Another consideration is that there is no financial aid available from Bryn Mawr for summer courses.
Going on interviews can be disruptive to an involved senior year schedule
Going to a medical school interview means missing at least one day at Bryn Mawr. For most interviews outside of Philadelphia students leave campus the day before the interview, meaning they often miss more than one day’s worth of campus time and classes per interview. Bryn Mawr students are from all over the country, and interviewing at their home state schools can become expensive and difficult to schedule. With the rolling admissions process at medical schools, the students should interview as early as possible and not defer interview invitations until winter break.
MD – PhD programs
Admission to MD-PhD programs is extremely competitive. In addition to superior academic qualifications, MD-PhD applicants must have significant research experience. At Bryn Mawr many students have their first real research experiences the summer following junior year. The Bryn Mawr science departments have summer fellowships to support several students doing research, which generally becomes the subject of each student’s year-long senior thesis research.
Because medical school applications are submitted during the summer, a student who wishes to matriculate in an MD-PhD program directly following graduation would need to submit her applications not long after she started her senior thesis research. Her research experience and accomplishments therefore would not be well represented during the initial review of her application by MD-PhD admissions committees. This is one reason that MD-PhD applicants from Bryn Mawr generally choose to take a glide year(s) after graduation.
In addition, MD-PhD applicants often do full-time research for one-two years after college in order to acquire additional research experience.